There are five main things the Trump administration must do to put U.S. foreign policy back on a pro-life and pro-family track.
First, the new administration must oppose further entrenchment of sexual and reproductive health policies in UN resolutions and programming, like in previous Republican administrations. This means rolling back egregious policies, particularly those targeting children, and insisting on caveats and qualifications that expressly preclude an international right to abortion. This work will begin as early as this Spring during debates at the UN Economic and Social Council.
Second, President-Elect Trump should restore the Mexico City Policy and strengthen it to achieve the purpose for which President Ronald Reagan first put it in place: to keep U.S. aid away from foreign abortion groups, and more specifically to prevent them from promoting abortion through education and political campaigns, lobbying, and other activities around the world.
Third, the Trump administration must rein in the UN human rights bureaucracy, particularly the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that oversees the work of the entire UN human rights system.
The UN Charter defines the UN secretariat as an essentially bureaucratic organ. Yet UN press releases and websites have referred to the Secretary General as the “head” of the UN. The secretariat has gone from facilitator of interaction between sovereign states to an executive role, an initiator of polices and processes, and a guide to the development of international norms, thus usurping the role of sovereign nations. This has been the case especially with social policy, including LGBT rights and abortion.
As part of his effort, the Trump administration must protest a recently-issued guideline on customary international law from the International Law Commission that conflates human rights law with customary international law. If not, it will fuel baseless claims of never-agreed-upon human rights. The comment period for states opened in January.
Fourth, the new administration must help reform UN treaty bodies and return them to a judicious and responsible stewardship of international human rights instruments. These bodies have usurped the prerogative of states to interpret and apply treaties. One of their principal goals has been to promote abortion as a right under several pretexts including women’s equality, torture, the right to life, the rights of the child, and the right to health, just to name a few.
The Trump administration may have an opportunity to weigh in on this as soon as March when the Human Rights Committee meets to re-draft a document to declare abortion as part of the “right to life.” The U.S. must go beyond the committees, and act through the General Assembly and the Conference of State Parties to the treaties which the U.S. has ratified.
Fifth, the Trump administration must support the inclusion of family policy in UN resolutions in line with international law and stop the State Department from treating LGBT rights as a foreign policy priority. U.S. diplomats under President Obama have been calling for deletion of long-revered language about the family as the “natural and fundamental group unit of society” in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from any UN resolution. This not only embarrasses the U.S. during UN debates, it undermines the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a foundational social norm of international human rights.
Stefano Gennarini writes for C-FAM, a UN watchdog group.